On August 19, Arts Central closed its doors—leaving a giant gap in Central Oregon's arts education offerings and services. The Art Station was an Arts Central program—one of many Arts Central programs the community had come to depend on for afterschool and summer options for their children.
Art Station's sudden closure came as a shock to many and left some families scrambling to find alternative classes for their children before the school year began. Sue Boettner, Recreation Services Manager for Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) says, "We tried to help those parents find other classes because, you know...parents have to work."
BPRD has been one of the Art Station's community partners since 2001. On September 20 its board decided to take over the Art Station lease with the intention of offering similar classes starting in November. While BPRD has always offered an array of introductory art classes through their enrichment department, Boettner acknowledges that Art Station programs provided a higher level of instruction. She says BPRD intends on maintaining that level of instruction and has already begun taking steps to ensure that happens.
"Our goal is to keep that quality and that higher level instruction that [the Art Station] was so good at by hiring their old instructors and maybe some new instructors with experience," says Boettner. Job listings were posted on Friday, Sept. 23 and interviews will be scheduled for the first week of October if all goes as planned.
The decision to take over and reopen the Art Station was an easy one. As a longtime community partner, BPRD had been helping Arts Central promote and run its classes since its inception. "When we heard they were closing their doors, we knew it would leave a huge void in the community," says Boettner. "We believe in what their mission was and it aligns with ours."
Operating expenses that had caused Art Central to struggle financially are now taken care of in house at BPRD. Boettner says: "Registration, administration, and the infrastructure it took to put their guides out cost them quite a bit of money. We do all of that on such a large scale that it isn't a huge extra expense for us."
With plans to reopen Art Station on Nov. 1, BPRD hopes to provide three-week sessions for a variety of ages in November and December and then have a full complement of programs ready for winter and spring. They'll offer many of the same fine arts classes as well as some new ones including jewelry, textile, and glass.
BPRD is also looking to expand the class offerings into new areas. "We're trying to reach out to the community and find out what they weren't getting...and (we) are looking at art therapy, home school, and autism classes," says Boettner. She encourages anyone with feedback about the past program or what they would like to see in the future to contact BPRD directly. "We can't improve unless we hear what the community wants."
313 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr., Bend
Bend Park and Recreation District